Did you know that one in six Americans get sick from foodborne illnesses each year? This accounts for approximately 128,000 hospitalizations with 3,000 of those resulting in death.

Thing is, many of these illnesses can be prevented by practicing good food hygiene. Let’s look at the four easy steps we can take keep our food (and family) safe.

Step 1 — Clean

Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and warm running water. Make sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. This should be done before preparing food and after touching raw meat, poultry or eggs.

Rinse produce. Rub tender foods, like berries, under cool running water. Firmer foods, like potatoes, can be scrubbed with a clean vegetable brush under running water.

Do not wash meat, poultry or eggs. Cooking them will kill bacteria.

Wash utensils and surfaces with hot, soapy water after each use. You might also want to clean surfaces and cutting boards with a bleach solution.

Step 2 — Separate

Keep cross-contamination at bay by putting raw meat, seafood and poultry on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator, away from fresh produce and ready-to-eat foods. Also keep these foods separate from all other foods while you’re shopping at the grocery store.

Use separate cutting boards, plates and utensils for raw produce and raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs.

Do not put cooked food on an unwashed plate that held these foods.

Wipe up refrigerator spills right away and clean the inside often.

Do not reuse marinades used on raw foods.

Step 3 — Cook

Foods are properly cooked when they are heated for a long enough time and at a high enough temperature to kill the harmful bacteria and viruses that cause foodborne illness. The best way to do this is to use a food thermometer.

Internal temperatures for beef, pork and lamb should be at least 145 degrees F; ground beef, pork, lamb and egg dishes at least 160 degrees F; poultry, casseroles and leftovers at least 165 degrees F.

Step 4 — Chill

Illness-causing bacteria can grow in many foods within two hours unless you refrigerate them. During the summer heat, cut that time down to one hour.

Now let’s put what we’ve learned into action by making a delicious recipe from foodhero.org.

Kathy Bates is a Family & Community Health Education Program Assistant for OSU Extension Service of Douglas County. Kathy can be reached by e-mail at kathy.bates@oregonstate.edu or phone at 541-672-4461.

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